Development, dissemination, implementation and evaluation of a clinical pathway for oxygen therapy.
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BACKGROUND: Oxygen is commonly administered to patients in hospital, but prescribing and monitoring of such therapy may be suboptimal. The objective of this study was to develop, disseminate, implement and evaluate a multidisciplinary clinical pathway for the administration of oxygen. METHODS: The authors developed a clinical pathway for the ordering, titration and discontinuation of oxygen, which was disseminated through teaching sessions, in-service training sessions and information posters in a medical clinical teaching unit (CTU). Implementation of the pathway was ensured by means of reminders and patient-centred audit and feedback to CTU nurses and house staff. During a 3-month intervention phase, consecutive patients requiring supplemental oxygen were treated according to the pathway. During a 1-month "wash-out" phase followed by a 3-month non-intervention phase, patients were treated at the discretion of the CTU team. Clinical and economic data were collected in both phases. RESULTS: In the 2 phases, patient characteristics, the concentration and duration of oxygen prescribed, the frequency of oxygen saturation monitoring, the frequency of arterial blood gas testing and the clinical outcomes were similar. However, there were more discontinuation orders in the intervention phase (p < 0.001). In the intervention phase, costs were higher for monitoring of oxygen saturation ($44.95/patient v. $36.17/patient, p = 0.048) and for order transcription ($2.71/patient v. $1.28/patient, p < 0.001); total costs, including those for personnel, were also higher in the intervention phase ($76.93/patient v. $56.67/patient, p = 0.02). The cost of education about the oxygen pathway was $45.71/patient. When the education cost was included, the total cost of oxygen therapy during the intervention phase was $122.64/patient; this was significantly higher than the total cost of oxygen therapy during the non-intervention phase ($56.67/patient) (p < 0.001). INTERPRETATION: This multidisciplinary, multimethod oxygen pathway led to changes in oxygen-prescribing behaviour, consumed more resources than standard management and was not associated with changes in patient outcome. Appropriate management of oxygen prescribing and monitoring by physicians and nurses take time and costs money.
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